Banihal-Qazigund tunnel to reduce travel distance by 16 km, to be thrown open soon

RATTAN SHARMA
JAMMU: The double-tube four-lane tunnel between Qazigund and Banihal, which is a prominent part of Srinagar-Jammu National Highway widening project, will be thrown open for public within weeks.                                                                                                  The 8.5-km-long All-weather tunnel, which has been built at a cost of Rs 2,100 crore, will reduce the travel distance between Jammu and Srinagar by 16 kms.
Pertinently, the construction work on the 8.5 km tunnel cutting across the mountain range was started in 2011 by the ‘Navyug Engineering Company’ after approval by the NHAI. It took more than 10 years to complete the project as the work was delayed for several reasons, including unexpected land condition inside the tunnel as well as issues related to local landlords and company workers.
According to construction agencies, the trial of various facilities inside the tunnel including ventilation set up and CCTVs installed inside the tunnel has already started. A total of 126 jet fans, 234 CCTV cameras, fire fighting system have been installed along the tunnel for safety and security reasons and the tunnel is expected to be thrown open in coming weeks.
Most of the civil, mechanical and electrical works have been completed while the toll plazas on both the terminals are also ready, official sources said adding that only security gadgets are pending due to COVID-19 restrictions on flights as they are being procured from Singapore. The tunnel has two tubes with a corridor between them at a distance of every 500 meters as emergency exit points. The mega project will be thrown open for public within weeks.
The company in charge of construction has got permission for the trial run of traffic in the tunnel made with the Austrian tunneling method. “We are presently engaged in the testing commissioning process after the installation of all required equipment including ventilation and electric system,” said an official.
This tunnel will bypass Jawahar Tunnel and Shaitan Nala located on the existing route of the highway. Both these places are some of the biggest obstacles for traffic when the weather is bad. The national highway often gets shut down due to heavy snowfall in winters as the current highway is prone to snowstorms and avalanches.
The existing road tunnel below the Banihal pass often witnessed traffic congestion that affected movement on the highway, the only all-weather road linking Kashmir with the rest of the country, due to its elevation of 2,194 m (7,198 ft) and limited traffic capacity.
The new tunnel will bypass all these challenges and convert the route from Srinagar to Banihal into an expressway.
The new tunnel has been constructed 400 meters below the Jawahar Tunnel, the only all-weather road connecting the Kashmir with the country passes through the Banihal pass. The height of the highway near Jawahar Tunnel is 2,194 meters above sea level. The average elevation of the Banhial-Qazigund tunnel is 1790 meters.                      Meanwhile, Union Secretary, Road Transport and Highways, Giridhar Aramane, today visited Banihal to assess the status of construction work on the double-tube four-lane tunnel between Qazigund and Banihal. He chaired a meeting at Banihal and reviewed the progress on the prestigious project with a detailed assessment of all vital aspects of the construction work. He assured that the mega project will be thrown open for public within weeks.
Chairman, National Highway Authority, Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, Deputy Commissioner, Ramban, Mussarat-ul-Islam, SSP, P.D.Nitya, ADC, Harbans Lal, SDM, Banihal, Zaheer Abbas besides MD, JCM, J S Rathore, Developers Private Limited and Project Management Consultant, Qazigund- Banihal tunnel attended the meeting.